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Will these changes to federal car safety regulations make roads safer?

Shawn M. Carter

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Wednesday that it will propose major changes to the New Car Assessment Program starting in 2020. The NCAP uses a five-star system to rate vehicle safety.

Some of the upgrades, the NHTSA noted, will include new technologies, test procedures, updates to vehicle labeling, advancements in crash-test dummies and continued research to “ensure NCAP’s products are effectively meeting the public’s needs.”

In a statement, the agency said it will also consider new technologies to upgrade pedestrian-collision avoidance systems and cyclist safety.

“Our program has been a tremendous success and has saved many lives, but far too many American families still lose loved ones every year, and we firmly believe that vehicles can and should be even safer in the future,” NHTSA Acting Administrator James Owens, said.

“That is why NHTSA is working on improving the program to make the 5-Star Safety Ratings Program even more dynamic, and to accelerate NCAP modernization to keep pace with advancements in safety technology.  American car buyers want safety, and NHTSA wants to help by creating additional market-based incentives for automakers to continue investing in innovative safety technologies that will save lives and prevent injuries.”

The NHTSA is working to publish a Federal Register Notice in 2020, which it said will seek comment on upgrades to NCAP.

The agency, in 2015, proposed requiring automakers to include crash avoidance systems, according to Reuters. As well, the proposal sought to require carmakers to add amber-red turn signals, blind-spot detection, forward-collision and lane-departure warnings, lower-beam head lighting, rear automatic braking and semi-automatic headlamp beam switching.

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Those changes would factor into how a car is rated. They were set to take effect in 2019, but have been delayed as the agency held public hearings.

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